Neil Young and the Pacific Coliseum
February 20, 2010

I was surprised when I heard the Pacific Coliseum was going to be an Olympic skating venue.   The Coliseum is about fourty years old and home to junior hockey teams.   One of the skaters actually complained the venue feels more like a place for training, rather than competing.  No doubt. Still, the athletes have have risen above it.

The other night, as part of the Cultural Olympiad,  a Neil Young tribute concert took place at the Vogue, starring Lou Reed, Ron Sexsmith and Broken Social Scene.   It sounds like a good idea, although the concert didn’t get a great review.  The reviewer said the best person to sing Neil Young songs is Neil Young. 

I saw Neil Young at the Pacific Coliseum in 1973.   

My friend Janice lived across the street from me and was a devoted Neil Young fan.  We used to listen to his records on a turntable in her bedroom.  Janice was particularly fond of “Sugar Mountain” and I remember her mother laughing when we said the song made us feel old. 

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain/With the barkers and the coloured balloons/You can’t be twenty on Sugar Mountain/Though you’re feeling that you’re leaving there too soon.

 Neil Young’s tour “Time Fades Away”  was announced.  Janice’s parents would only let her go to the concert if she went with someone older.  She hurriedly phoned me.   I was 15 and she was 13.

Her father dropped us off at the Pacific Coliseum and we eagerly joined a peaceful crowd of hippies, stoners and other suburban young people.  It was general admission and the place was so crowded that we had to sit on the stairs.  We were too excited to care.  Years later I read that night was the Coliseum’s highest occupancy ever- it was oversold.

Linda Ronstadt opened.  She was not yet a star and many in the crowd didn’t know her.   People shouted for Neil Young and booed her.  She sang beautifully and  tried to keep her composure but was almost in tears by the end.  Linda Ronstadt never returned to play in Vancouver, as far as I know.  I don’t blame her.

Then Neil Young came on.  The night was pure magic.   As songs we knew were announced or begun,  Janice and I would look at each other and grin with happiness.   Neil Young  even played “Sugar Mountain”.   It blew our minds.   The whole night seemed like a dream.

After the show, we waited at a pre-arranged spot and Janice’s father swung by and picked us up.

My favourite Neil Young song, although there are many so great ones, is “Cinnamon Girl”.

Best cover –  The Cowboy Junkies singing a heartbreaking and mysterious  “Powderfinger”.